VIDEO: Griquas 'choked' in the Final
It was a refreshing post-match interview, as Griquas coach Pieter Bergh admitted the occasion became too big for his team.
The Pumas won the ultimate Cinderella Final, beating Griquas 26-19 in the Currie Cup decider in Kimberley at the weekend.
In their first-ever appearance in the Final of South Africa’s premier domestic competition, the Pumas outscored the hosts by three tries to one in front of a near-capacity crowd of almost 11,000.
In a candid admission the Griquas coach, Bergh, said his team was never in the game, even though the final margin was just seven points.
“To be honest, I thought we had stage fright,” Bergh told a post-match media briefing.
“We have to be honest about it, we didn’t pitch up.
“There were simply too many errors that put us on the back foot.”
The coach admitted his team also did not follow the script.
A tactic that brought them much success a fortnight ago in Nelspruit, contestable kicks, did not materialise on a barren day in Kimberley.
“In the pre-match warm-up, the Pumas backs just practised catching contestable kicks.
“We did not kick one contestable kick the entire game,” a bemused Bergh said.
“We did not execute our plan,” the coach said, adding: “We beat them twice in the [league stages of] this season, because we were tactically very good.
“In this game, they were more physical than us, their defence was better and in all aspects of the game, we were second best.
“If you don’t pitch up you will be second best in every aspect.”
He admitted the big build-up to the Final and all the talk of the 52-year wait for another final was “too emotional” for the many young players in his squad.
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“All credit must go to [Pumas coach] Jimmy [Stonehouse].
“He deserves it and did a brilliant job this whole year.”
Bergh added that he hopes to get another shot at a Currie Cup Final – having two years remaining on his contract in Kimberley.
The Lowvelders’ temperament formed the foundation of their triumph, which was powered by superior execution, finishing and rock-solid defence.
Their sharpness on attack and powerful driving maul saw them score two unanswered tries, which helped them take an 18-9 lead into the break, with the hosts managing just three penalty goals via the boot of George Whitehead.
The lead grew to 17 before the Peacock Blues produced a fightback, which was sparked by a scintillating try by Munier Hartzenberg in the 57th minute.
A late monster penalty goal from Whitehead, who’d also converted his wing’s try, gave Griquas a chance to force the Final into extra time with a last-gasp converted try.
However, it was not to be as the Pumas held on to become only the eight Currie Cup winners.